Being a ‘Social Worker’ in Kashmir

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By Zahra Sajaud

“WHAT are you upto these days?”, my aunt enquired one day.

“Pursuing master’s degree in Social Work”, I answered haughtily.

Surprisingly, she reverted, “why would you need a degree for that! What’s the big deal about rendering help to a needy! A person’s conscience is enough for Social Work.”

“How bad you wasted two precious years of life! I wish you had better utilised the time for civil service preparations!”

And I was short of explanation. Totally baffled by how I justify a two-year tiring professional course when there is every second person claiming to be a Social Worker without any required academic qualification.

How many of us agree with the fact that a chemist, no matter how good he/she may be at curing ails, can never qualify to be called a doctor, because of the simple truth that a chemist doesn’t hold an MBBS degree.

Similarly, no person from whatever academic background can claim to be a Social Worker at any cost, if that person doesn’t hold a degree in MSW (Masters in Social Work) or least BSW (Bachelors in Social Work).

The misuse of terms ‘Social Work’ and ‘Social Worker’ is quite common in India and without a doubt in Kashmir as well. If we track the roots of this misconception, it seems to evolve from the idea that people often tend to relate Social Work with social and moral obligations that religion preaches and philanthropy demands.

However, as far as professionalism is concerned, Social Work is still striving to emphasize its professional status because its emergence as an academic discipline is very recent compared to other professional courses. The Western countries have given the discipline the professional recognition it demands, but India seems to be still in a dilemma.

In Kashmir, this path isn’t even treaded. Hence, it is very easy to claim a title of Social Worker here. One has to just click a fancy picture while handing over the packed relief to needy ones and, the next day you become an admired Social Worker, a star of social media and award shows, people already eager to follow and attend your Instagram live sessions.

The fault totally doesn’t lie with the common masses. They often tend to confuse Social Work with Social Service or Social Welfare and likewise, Social Worker with Humanitarian or Philanthropist. Therefore, it has become an urgent necessity to draw a line between what people term as Social Work and what actually professional Social Work means.

People are trapped in this misconception that having sympathy for a particular cause and giving immediate help is all a Social Worker does. But, when it comes to actual Professional Social Work, the worker has to undertake an extended work where while taking due care of ethics and principles of professionalism, they apply different methods suited to ensure sustainability and better functioning of the client in the long run.

Simply saying, a Social Worker will prefer to enrol clients (what they call needy) in some skill development course rather than giving them free rashan, so that when the rashan is out of stock he may not have to ask for it again. Skill development will make them perpetually independent. This kind technicality and sustainability is what a professional Social Worker will always take care of, distinguishing him from other so called Social Workers.

MSW is a full- fledged academic course with a diverse and rich body of knowledge, literature and set of theories. The curriculum ensures that the enroller has a good hold on knowledge building and practical experience to approach the social issues scientifically.

Due weightage is given to the field exposure where a student is encouraged to imbibe the skills and methods required to deal with different clients, situations and problems. The enroller is trained to work in community, emergency, adversity, advocacy, research, legislation, mass grievances, NGO, etc.  Thus, a professional Social Worker has to undergo a lot of comprehension building, field experience, and skill learning to be really called a Social Worker.

However, when a trained Social Worker steps into the field, there is already a rush of non-Social Workers who mercilessly await to snatch the opportunity and recognition which is actually meant for the former. The degree of Social Work hardly adds value to the resume. The profile that any set-up demands could be easily filled by any person belonging to a random background.

“It’s common for a professional worker to face rejection while applying for a certain  post, Social Workers are easily replaceable. We often find ourselves in dilemma and frustration when we see people of other disciplines supervising or working at par with us in places that are actually meant for us. We have plenty of ‘Civil Society personalities’ who are actually doctors, engineers, business graduates heading Social Welfare Organisations and claiming to be Social Workers”, one of the Social Worker said.

I staunchly believe that it’s high time for the already established Social Workers to push for the draft known as NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SOCIAL WORK (EDUCATION AND PRACTICE) BILL, 2020 and, turn it into a law.

The draft clearly states: ‘Professional Social Worker means a person who holds a Professional Social Work Qualification and includes Social Work Educators and Social Work Practitioners’. 

  • The positions identified for Social Workers be filled only by those having Professional Social Work Qualifications.
  • Imposition of fine not less than 1 lakh and three-years imprisonment as the punishment for the offence which is cognizable and non-bailable.

By saying all this, I’m not raising a finger on those who have contributed immensely to the cause of humanity. They deserve to be honoured for every bit of tireless work they have done for the betterment of people.

But, the need of the hour is that we change the narration and fasten the appeal for establishment of a proper Professional Association body of Social Workers to regulate and control the trend. To ensure that the rights of Social Worker are protected and their space reserved. This will further help in building a society where social problems and delinquency are dealt scientifically rather than just subsiding problems by rendering temporary help out of sympathy.


  • The author is an aspiring Social Worker, pursuing Masters in Social Work from University of Kashmir. You can reach her at [email protected]  

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